Monthly Archives

April 2019

By | Entrepreneurship

UB Case Competition

In April, Team Calorie Surplus – Xueying “Shelley” Chen, Carolina Lion He, and Shengyang “Shawn” Wu – participated in the University at Buffalo Case Competition, where each team was given a business case to solve. The team learned valuable lessons throughout the competition that they want to share with fellow student entrepreneurs.

Read more about Team Calorie Surplus’s experience.

By | Innovation, People, Rochester

UB Case Competition

By Xueying “Shelley” Chen (with Carolina Lion He and Shengyang “Shawn” Wu)

In April, Team Calorie Surplus participated in the University at Buffalo Case Competition, where each team was given a business case to solve. The assigned case – whether or not a Chinese-born entrepreneur, Jane, should enter the pearl market in Canada – required analysis and a presentation to a panel of judges. During the semi-final round of the competition, these presentations were twenty-minutes long, followed by a ten-minute Q&A session. The team, made up of Shengyang “Shawn” Wu, Xueying “Shelley” Chen, and Carolina Lion He, said it was an intellectually stimulating experience because every minute they were challenged to come up with solutions, supported by valid evidence.

Team Calorie Surplus during the University at Buffalo’s Case Competition.

We booked a bus to Buffalo and checked into the hotel. The first day was hosted at the Buffalo Club, a private club with a long history (we heard it was once connected to the White House when President Reagan was in the office). The welcome event was a great networking opportunity where we connected with professionals who work at Bank of America, Citibank, and Deloitte. We also spoke to MBA students who had ample work experience.

While we did not advance to the final competition, we learned plenty of lessons from people we were fortunate to meet at the competition. Below, we will tell you some key takeaways from our experiences and participation in this competition.

The team in Buffalo (from left to right): Xueying “Shelley” Chen ’19, Carolina Lion He ’21, and Shengyang “Shawn” Wu ’21.

Networking in a Formal Business Setting

We built genuine relationships at the reception, where we connected with other participants as well as professionals (and later through LinkedIn). One of the lessons we learned from a Vice President in a large financial firm is to always follow up with someone on Linkedin. She told us of a student who would repeatedly message her on Linkedin until he asked – and received – a referral for a position.

Analyzing Business Problems and Searching for Solutions

Because this was our first experience of analyzing a business case, it was quite overwhelming for us to delve into the details at the beginning. Both the background of the case and the business question behind it were challenging for us. We read though the case over and over again, talked through our questions, and conducted market research to back up our conclusions, leading us to really grasp the right way of critically analyzing a business conundrum. At the end of the competition, we left Buffalo with more confidence and skills to solve problems with an analytical and fact-based mindset.

Initiating Conversations and Finding Common Ground

How do you start a conversation with others (professionals or participants) in a formal business reception? Ask them, “do you know K-pop?” and follow up with, “do you know BTS (a South-Korean boy band)?”

Just kidding! The takeaway from this is to not talk with the sole purpose of benefiting from others – they will notice and that will not be a positive experience for either one of you. For example, a graduate admissions person sat down at our table and started a conversation with us. He asked us to tell him about “trends,” because he likes to learn from younger people. I asked whether he meant any types of trends because when I think of trends, I mostly think of pop music. This exchange led us to an interesting conversation that touched on pop music, psychology, and university admissions. The one thing to keep in mind is to speak as your true self; do not try to talk about some economic theories just because you think it would make you look cooler or more intelligent. How you deliver your thoughts is often more important than the topic that you are talking about.

Xueying “Shelley” Chen ’19 is a researcher, activist and writer of social entrepreneurship and a believer of impact-driven businesses. She thinks business is a vehicle to deliver profitable, sustainable and socially responsible returns. Shelley puts human-centered impact in the core of her daily business practice. Additionally, Shelley is an active member of the UR entrepreneurial community and she is a member of the Ain Team – a group of elite student ambassadors chosen to promote and increase the visibility of the department and the MS in TEAM program.

By | Entrepreneurship

5 Storytelling Tips

On Monday, March 25, the Ain Center hosted the third and final Mark Ain Business Model Workshop of 2019. Building on the fall Foundry Forum workshops, this series is designed to help entrepreneurs prepare for upcoming business plan competitions. This workshop – Startup Storytelling: Become a Master of Pitching – helped students learn about how to pitch a venture and tell a compelling story. We’ve summarized five key points. 

Read all five tips from the storytelling workshop.

By | Innovation, People, Rochester

5 Storytelling Tips

By Ain CFE Staff

“Marketing is no longer about the stuff you make, but about the stories you tell,” writes Seth Godin. A fantastic idea can’t sell itself – it needs a powerful narrative to grow and take on a life of its own. Whether trying to attain funding or recruit new team members, a well-structured story can make all the difference.

On March 25, Kathryn Cartini (Partner, Chloe Capital; COO, Upstate Venture Connect; Founder, Peacock Media) spoke to students about building relationship capital and how that factors into storytelling. This was the third and final session in the 2019 Mark Ain Business Model Workshops. Held to help prepare students for our upcoming business plan competitions, the Mark Ain Workshops build on the more soft-skill-focused Foundry Forums held during the fall semester. Below are 5 key points drawn from the event.

Show Up

Make an effort to meet as many people as you can. Attend events and get out in the community - quantity is important, especially before you narrow your focus. As you talk to more people, you can get a sense of what individuals are looking for and how they think. This will help form a foundation for your story.

Identify Your Audience

Who are you talking to? What do they care about? Do extensive research, as this will help tailor the content and tone used in your pitch. Kate also encourages entrepreneurs to keep everything organized via a CRM (or even on Google Sheets!). Imagining a specific person may also help when designing your presentation, so be sure to keep detailed notes of your interactions.

Be Respectful

Relationships are built on a foundation of trust and respect. While you want to get your point across and make the most of each conversation, be passionate but not pushy. Pay attention to how much of people's time you are taking up and recognize that not every interaction will be immediately beneficial. According to Kate, "relationships will build your business" - don't mar the bonds you create by bulldozing over the people you want to work with.

Get Creative and Give First

Before talking with someone, consider what you bring to the table. Do you have any skills that they could benefit from? Kate urges entrepreneurs to "give first," a tactic that goes against the traditional ask. By sharing something of yourself, you open the relationship on a positive note and ingratiate yourself to people who may be key contacts in the future.

Find the Common Thread

Once you have started to grow these relationships, you have to assemble all of your pieces. Think about how your individual background melds with your venture - everything should fit together. Why are you the one that has to make this a reality? If things are a bit hazy, try to create a visual map or timeline to help form a narrative. In any case, consult with advisors and peers who may see links that you have missed. Share from a place of experience, speak with confidence, and be humble - listen to your audience and continually adjust your story to reflect your growth.

If you have any questions about pitching or learning more about any of the topics discussed during the workshop, please contact the Ain Center at or meet with one of our Experts-in-Residence.